A Welsh language poet, killed in the First World War and posthumously awarded the Bardic Chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod
Ellis Humphrey Evans was born at Pen Lan in the middle of the village of Trawsfynydd. At the age of only four months, he and his family moved to the family farm, a few miles outside the village, overlooking Cwm Prysor. Today the farmhouse, Yr Ysgwrn, is still famous as the childhood home of Hedd Wyn.
On leaving school, Ellis worked on the farm with his father. He had shown an interest in poetry from an early age, competing in eisteddfodau.
The First World War was dramatically to alter the lives of many young men from Wales. Ellis was one of 280,000 Welsh men who joined the Armed Forces in the ‘Great War’ of 1914–18. Early in 1917 the bard joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was sent to France in June. Within a month he was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele.
The National Eisteddfod in Birkenhead was staged in September of that year. The Archdruid, Dyfed proclaimed the author of ‘Yr Arwr’ (‘The Hero’) as the winner of the Bardic Chair, but explained that he could not take part in the ceremony as he had been killed in battle. The empty Chair was draped with a black cloth. From that moment, Hedd Wyn became a symbol of every Welshman lost during the conflict. This event has had a profound effect on the history of Welsh poetry and literature.
A film written by poet Alan Llwyd and directed by Paul Turner called ‘Hedd Wyn’ was released in 1992, becoming the first Welsh language film to be nominated for an Academy Award.